Paul George is in LA and Russell Westbrook could also be on the move
After Kawhi Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers early Saturday morning, he pulled off a stunning coup to convince All-Star Paul George to abandon Russell Westbrook and force his way out of Oklahoma City after just one year of his four-year deal.
What followed was speculation that the Thunder could also move on from Westbrook and fully turn to a rebuild. Oklahoma City received an NBA-record amount of draft capital from the Clippers, and trading Westbrook could bring an additional haul that would propel them into the next decade.
The question becomes, should the Hornets have any interest in Westbrook?
Westbrook would certainly bump the star-power on Charlotte’s roster. Russ is a former NBA MVP (2017), 8x All-Star, and two-time scoring champion. He’s also led the league in assists twice and is a triple-double machine. There is no one on Charlotte’s roster that has his scoring or passing ability.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Westbrook has several flaws that can be hard to overlook. He’s proven tough to play with, as both Kevin Durant and George have left him, choosing greener pastures in California. The departure of George is more startling, as he had committed to Westbrook for four years and decided he couldn’t take it anymore.
In addition to be tough to play with, Russ is seen as a stat-padder and known to burn out with his high-octane style of play. He’s not a great shooter overall but he’s an especially terrible shooter from long-range (a career 30.8% shooter from three).
Perhaps the biggest question would be how acquiring Westbrook would fit with adding Terry Rozier. The Hornets acquired Rozier to be their starting point guard and adding Westbrook would create the situation that Rozier tried so hard to escape in Boston. Dedicating that much money to two point guards on this roster just isn’t feasible. Any trade for Russ would likely see Rozier going the other way.
It’s tough to figure out how the Hornets would absorb Westbrook’s contract. He’s signed for four more years on a contract that pays over $41 million annually, which is a contract that the Hornets just aren’t in a position to take on. Adding his salary would require moving several overpaid pieces of the current roster, which would likely require additional assets on top of what it would already take to acquire Westbrook to begin with. You can all but kiss most of the Hornets future draft picks good bye and potentially players like Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington or Dwayne Bacon.
It’s a steep price to pay for a player like Westbrook but it shows you the desperation of the Hornets current situation.
Looking at the Hornets current roster, it’s probably more likely that they will be competing for the No.1 overall pick than a playoff spot. Adding Westbrook likely makes the Hornets an automatic playoff team in the weak Eastern Conference.
For an angry and hopeless fanbase, adding a player of Westbrook’s caliber would inevitably split people into two groups. Group A would see Westbrook’s star power and be grateful to avoid the pain of being a cellar-dweller. Group B would consider trading for Westbrook another terrible decision by management that has led the Hornets into this tough situation to begin with.
I would lean toward Group B. The amount of assets it would take to acquire Westbrook and clear the necessary cap space wipes away the Hornets future and pins it all on a player who has not proven capable of leading a team to a championship, even with far better players than the Hornets possess.
What do you think? Should the Hornets consider trading for Westbrook?